Tuesday, March 10, 2020


I don't know about you, but currently in my bird  room, I am seeing the beginnings of the bi-annual molting of some very beautiful parrot feathers.  It's a race - if I see a feather that has just floated to the bottom of the cage, I grab it up and put it in one of the many bouquets I have around the house.  (I know, interior designers would cringe at my feathered wall decor here, there, well, anywhere there is a space to place a handful of feathers!)   And then there are the feathers that land in the unenviable location that pretty much puts a bullseye on them...marked for poop. I grab those out, as well and give them a good, gentle wash and rinse, air dry, and into an established grouping they go!  If they're scraggly, chewed on, or have too much additional "material," into the trash they go.  

Over the years, I've tried a variety of things to diminish what turns into this three-dimensional wallpaper.  When we have visitors with children, there is always curiosity about the birds which then requires a tour of the bird room or outside to the flights on warm days; a quick educational journey to instill a spark of respect and possibly love and passion of these feathered beasties.  And then, who knows? possibly future, responsible parrot stewardship.   We can only hope.  After the tour, if young eyes haven't already spotted a feather on the ground or in the cage, I send everyone home with at least one feather to remind them of their encounter.  

Another option I have used is saving sets of feathers and then selling them on eBay.  I notice now that bird owners sell them on Pinterest, too.  There is  definitely a market for them, and sometimes the prices asked are fairly high, depending on  the  rarity of the birds' feathers, the colors, the size, symmetry, amount, etc. When I have been successful with this, I have chosen a parrot rescue and donated the proceeds. It's pretty much a win-win: I don't have as many feathers (as least temporarily until that next molt comes around); the feathers are used for some gifted person's crafts, or Native Americans create incredible ceremonial decorations...and the rescue has some much needed extra funding.  (This is an awesome activity for bird groups for their own fund raisers, as well.)  

One of the most rewarding paths, I believe, that we can do, regarding "recycling" our flocks' discards, is collecting those feathers and sending them directly to Native Americans for their celebrations, traditions established hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.    And if you are in the same feathered boat that I'm in, and feel really guilty at even the thought of throwing away something as beautiful as a Scarlet Macaw's 22" tail feather or an incredible multi-colored wing feather from your Amazon or Grey,  or whatever species you share space with, then you might possibly consider this option. The tribes need and so appreciate these donations, and you are making a difference for the Native Americans, as well as parrots in the wild.  

Here are links to a well-established organization, started by Steven James, Feathers for Native Americans, that collects donated parrot feathers, with information about how to donate, how feathers are used, what feathers will never be used, and your impact on the Central and South American parrot population by providing molted feathers.  Feathers for Native Americans is also involved with  saving the Blue Throated Macaws, a cause championed by the late Laney Rickman. 

Better to be used and appreciated like this than gather dust on my walls, as beautiful as they are.  And heck, I know I can create my "home decor" anytime, as long as my birds keep sharing their gorgeous bounty.  Think about it!

Saturday, February 29, 2020



Time and again I see posts on Facebook from people desperate for answers to the problems they are having with companion parrots.  They assume the groups that are specifically set up for people who live with parrots would be the logical place to seek help.  After all, here are hundreds, if not thousands, of people with experience and good knowledge, right?

Sometimes not so much.

If I had a dime for every time I've seen bad advice given in a pet parrot Facebook group...well, we all know how many huge bird rooms I'd have.  One of the most common posts I see are pleas for help with a biting parrot.  Also common are requests for advice about a parrot on a shoulder who has bitten someone's face.  There seems to be an easy remedy for this - don't put the parrot on your shoulder.  However, the responses most often given concern something called "Height Dominance."  Height Dominance is the idea that when a parrot is perched higher than eye level, it becomes dominant in its own mind or has a sense of superiority. This concept should have gone obsolete along with big hair and the Berlin Wall, but some of the places where you can find this archaic information are mind-boggling. Even a few veterinary websites proclaim the dangers of allowing a parrot to perch above you, where it will immediately feel like the dictator of a third world country.

Admittedly, I don't breed parrots, I don't tour the world training parrots and I haven't spent years in other countries studying parrots in the wild. However, I read literally everything I can get my hands on - particularly about wild parrots, I attend conferences and workshops, I have long discussions with aviculturists I watch videos, and I work to find new homes for birds.   I have lived with parrots for over twenty years, both my own and fosters.   I've watched them closely, examined who motivates them, tried to understand how they see the world as a bird. I have a house full of my own reprobates who have various reasons for not doing what I want them to do...none of which have anything to do with a need for dominance.

A few friends of mine who breed parrots have noted that with a nesting pair, the male will sit higher than the female.  There are many reasons a parrot may want to perch higher than another parrot.  A male sitting higher than a nesting female doesn't speak of dominance to me, it speaks of protection.  Height provides a better view of things, a better opportunity to jump on a predator or rival.  We all know of males who kill mates.  Conversely, we also know females can, and sometimes do, attack their male partners. I completely believe a male may sit higher, but I don't think it's a show of dominance over a female.

The consensus from biologists, ornithologists, and published aviculturists who have studied parrots in the wild seems contrary to the height for dominance theory.  Parrots do have sentinels, particularly Pionus parrots, who will pick a high branch and cycle flock members through to keep watch. Parrots also squabble in the wild, but I have never read anywhere that it's over a desire to be dominant by having the highest branch.  What purpose would that even serve?  Dominance in mammals serves a purpose - first in line for a kill, making decisions for the pack, pick of the females.  For parrots, there's always another high branch, or another piece of fruit on another tree.  Dominance doesn't seem to accomplish anything here.  We know with mates there's a complicated mating ritual that involves a lot of displaying and, for parrots, mutual attraction as in most instances they will stay together for life.  I don't think any female parrot is going to pick Brad because he's a good fighter over Percival who tickles her fancy for who knows what reason.  Parrots do remind me of humans a little in this regard.  They fall in love for reasons that make no sense to an outsider.

For people who breed parrots this is a moot point - if a pair seems happy and they produce offspring, it really doesn't matter why they are perching higher.

Here's why that theory is dangerous for companion parrot owners.  Parrots are incredibly intelligent, sensitive beings.  This is why we are so drawn to them. If a person is convinced her parrot is trying to be "dominant" over her, the natural reason is to "teach" the parrot that it is not. In turn, the owner is well on her way to destroying trust and ruining a relationship with her bird.  One post I read in a Facebook group (that is supposedly geared toward education) was from a person seeking help for a "biting" parrot, a parrot who in particular bit faces while perched on a shoulder. The overwhelming response was about height dominance.  No! No! No! This is not about dominance.  This is about not being able to read body language in a bird who is either highly excited, or stressed, or any number of things.  It was also mentioned that the bird won't come off the top of his cage, or will jump on the owner.  I have a number of questions here.  Does the parrot get put back in his cage every time he steps up off his cage? Is he doing something up there that is more rewarding than stepping up to do something else?  Does he jump on his owner because he doesn't want her near his cage? Is he jumping because he thinks she will force him to do something he doesn't want to do? A wing trim may settle him down, but only because he doesn't have the option of flying onto a head anymore.  I agree it may make it easier to work on training, but it doesn't teach him anything about who is "dominant."I don't believe that this means anything in a parrot's world.  In the wild, they are just trying to survive, to stay alive one more day.  Sentinels make sense.  Dominant leaders do not.  All members must be vigilant and in this way the flock provides protection for its members.

Birds LIKE high places, such as trees, telephone wires, the top of your kitchen cabinets.  It's safe up high; you can see cool stuff when you're up high.  If your parrot is above you and he lunges at you or tries to bite you when you jab your hand into his belly, it is because you are trying to force him to come down and he'd rather stay right where he is.  He is not trying to show you he's dominant.  He isn't sitting up there thinking, "Well, Debbie, it's pretty clear from my position of height who is actually in charge here.  Maybe if I was below your shoulder, I'd step up.  But I'm not.  So, off with you, inerior being.  I have position-of-power things to do." Oh, and that whole push-your-hand-into-a-parrot's belly repeatedly, while saying, "Step up! STEP up!"? Yeah, they hate that.

I live with a large flock of parrots and I foster other birds throughout the year.  I've spent time with big, male Amazons who lunged and tried to jump on me when I got within a few feet of them.  I've had birds so frightened they slammed into their cage bars if I even walked into the room.  I've learned some important lessons, the most important being to never label a bird.  A parrot is not mean, or a hater, or (my favorite line) unadoptable. Take your time, go slowly, watch and study, and do not force a parrot to do something unless it is absolutely necessary.  They aren't trying to dominate you, they are so much more complicated than that.  If you have the patience to study them, you'll figure it out. If you want quick and easy answers, parrots are not for you.

Thursday, August 8, 2019



I know that getting your birds outside can be a challenge with busy work & family schedules, but if and when you can, here are some tips for making it a great experience for your flock.

1 - What is the weather going to do? If there is a shower, do they have protection from rain? Can you get them inside in a timely manner before a storm?  And make sure there's some good shade and protection from direct, hot sunlight.  

2 - Check the water dishes in outside flights.   It evaporates quickly, and gets dirty quickly.   Clean water dishes daily and make sure water bowls are filled.

3 - Perfect time for a summer bath! - Outside in the hot shade is a great place to give your birds a spritz.   (I actually use the mist setting on my garden hose to give my birds a cool down.)  If your birds enjoy bathing in a bowl (or a hanging birdbath), the outside flight is the perfect place for a Splash Down. 

4 - Check your outdoor cage or flight and make sure that it is securely closed.  

5 - When you carry your birds into their flights, keep your eyes focused on your bird as you place him/her on the perch until you have left the aviary to make sure he doesn’t spook and try and fly out.  

6 -  Do NOT trust that, since your bird's wings are clipped, that it will not be able to fly.  Truly a parrot myth.  Hold your bird on your hand (NOT on your arm) and  firmly hold his toes with your thumb wrapped around them.  A little pressure on those tootsies as you walk outside is worth it to make sure your bird doesn’t spook at a wild bird, a noise, an airplane, etc, and then bolts.

 7 -  Make SURE that the wire enclosure is made of fencing with small, small spaces (size and strength appropriate) where your bird can NOT get its head, feet, body stuck. Yes...it happens, with catastrophic results.   This works in reverse: the small spaces guarantee that your flock doesn’t have wild flighted visitors or other unwanted guests coming into their space.

8-  Don’t put food outside for your birds.  It will only draw other critters into the space.

9 -  Give your birds some challenging toys, climbing ropes and swings to play with while they’re outdoors and take a look at them every trip outside to make sure they’re still worthy of playing with (not soaked from a rain, 1/2 gone, hanging precariously on an open quick link, etc).  Safe-safe-safe and entertaining: that’s the ticket!

10 -  Check on your birds while they are outside to make sure all is well.

11  - Keep your eyes focused totally on your bird when you pick him/her up to go inside.  Make sure the door/gate is shut behind you while you get the “death grip” on those toes...and then open the door to leave.

I know this may sounds like a bunch of needless minutia, but over the years, we’ve all heard heartbreaking stories about birds spooking and flying off or something gone awry in the flight. Owners who trusted that, “Oh, my bird won’t fly off of my shoulder/arm/head when we go outside together;”  birds that are clipped that just miraculously...fly away; birds that get caught in spaces too large for their species and are injured or worse.  

Just use common sense when you get your birds outside.  It’s good for them and you can make it the great experience that they need and deserve. 

How do your birds get outside time?   Please share in the "Comments" section below.

Monday, October 29, 2018


Well, we are heading into the holiday season; Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and then to Christmas and Hanukkah and the New Year.   I remember when I was teaching first and second grades many years ago, my teammates and I would have a holiday feast (beef stew, corn bread, pumpkin pie, apple sauce - stew and apple sauce made by the children, corn bread and pies made by teachers and/or parent helpers) The kids made costumes, choosing to either be an Indian or a Pilgrim.   They decorated the classroom with stuffed paper bag & construction paper turkeys.  It was a pretty colorful, festive time of the year.  And it was truly a hoot to see 120 Pilgrims and Indians sitting down together, peacefully, to break bread! No arrows or blunderbusses were fired during those times.   

I always gave my little ones a writing assignment during the Thanksgiving season: I had them reflect on what they were grateful for and then they put pencil to paper.  Now...when someone only has 5-7 years under their belt, there's not much past history to reflect on, and the concept of gratefulness is tough for some, as developmentally, the whole world pretty much revolves around their own little self (and rightly so!)   So I always modeled for the class what I wanted them to do, and we would also brainstorm what 'being thankful' meant to them. There would be a class-generated list to choose from. And they would end up focusing on their parent(s), grandparents, sisters/brothers, etc, pets, favorite toys or books, etc., not having to share a bedroom, learning to ride a bike...you get the picture.  (I realize that today the thanks might focus on Nintendos or technology or maybe, for some, the health of a family member, having a place to live, etc.)   And once they had their choices made, the class went through the rest of the writing process and  Thanksgiving cards were made and decorated and taken home to share with their parents.   I hope that that activity at least opened the door of awareness and gave my students the beginning of the true appreciation of what made their lives special...even at that very young age.  For that matter, I hope that there was at least one thing special for each one of them in their lives.

I mention this part of my teaching history because I wanted to share how grateful I am now, for so many things. I don't take anything....a n y t h i n g for granted at my ripe old age.   I am truly grateful. I won't go into that long list of 'whats'  or 'whys' with you, (and it really is). This blog would be extremely lengthy if I headed down that road right now.   No,  I just want to briefly explain why I am grateful for my flock of parrots, not just at Thanksgiving, but every single day that I walk into their room in the morning and am greeted with their beauty and their spectacular vocalizations and behaviors.  And my guess is that, as parrot lovers, you feel the same way that I do. 


Friday, October 19, 2018


Tanner has unreasonable expectations of his mom.

2018 has been a very challenging year for me, in so many ways.  One of the things that happened was having major back surgery, which included a fusion, in late July.   I had no choice...I had reached a point where I couldn’t walk at all without excruciating pain.  Successful surgery, and then I came down with pneumonia three weeks later.  Another physical ordeal that I overcame over the ensuing weeks.    

It has been almost three months since my surgery and my body is healing, but it has come with a price, and I believe it’s worth sharing with all of my friends who have parrots and other pets, for that matter. I suppose it could be called a cautionary tale.

I have five big birds.  I have friends with many more than that, and some with just one or a few. I also had two elderly dogs at the time of my surgery.   I have friends with dogs, cats,  birds, menageries!   I realize I’m not alone in this. And we all know the demands that our feathered babies and other animals  put on us on a daily basis, and we all have a routine of feeding, cleaning, enriching, playing/training.   What happens when we are physically unable to care for our flock, our animals?  This is what I faced and still do today on a much smaller scale.

I came home from the hospital after five days.   I couldn’t do ONE thing for myself.  Nothing. I was incredibly weak.  I could not take necessary healing steps without the support of a rolling walker. Balance and walk? Very scary stuff.    I couldn’t get anything to eat or drink by myself from the kitchen.  I could not move my body one iota in bed to get  into a comfortable position.  Everything required help.  Everything.   Fortunately for me, my husband was with me every single moment, there for every single need.   I was nurtured and cared for 24/7.   After a few days of being home, a dear friend of ours came and stayed with us for four days.   His presence was a godsend.   It wasn’t just to help me, but to cover the  necessary things that were going by the wayside because Robert was totally focused on my recovery.  And that  included taking care of the Thomasson flock and dogs.  

Our dear friend, Art, passionately loves parrots, and he “stepped right up,” pulling bowls, feeding/watering, twice a day.  Changing papers, cleaning cages, and entertaining my miscreant crew in the bird room.  He helped with our dogs as well.   He walked them when they needed to go out (and that was not an easy task, as our 80 lb German Shepherd mix had suffered a debilitating stroke in his spine).  He picked up, wiped down, and was totally focused on taking care of everything, including us.  And then he had to go home and we were on our own again. But those four days of his help made all the difference in the world, and we are so grateful.

So, how lucky am I?  Very lucky.  I have a loving husband who helped me through my recovery.  We had a dear friend who covered all “uncovered bases” for days. My birds did not lack for anything.  Their needs were met and more so.  My dogs’ needs were met.  My needs were all met.  (Even long conversations during the night when I couldn’t sleep, which was most of the time.).  And, I didn’t mention that we had a neighbor, who also has parrots and dogs, who came over and tended our animals while I was in the hospital while Robert stayed by my side.  

I know others who have had extreme surgeries this year. They have pets as well.  I know I was not the only one who has faced serious health issues like this.  But as I mentioned in the beginning, I was very lucky to have had support, for me, for our animals, for our household.   

What do you do if you live alone or are the sole caretaker in your household for your animals and either suffer a debilitating accident, come down with a serious illness, or need major surgery? Do you have someone you can rely on who will step up and insure that your flock, your dogs and cats and rabbits, etc, are fed and cared for?   You may want to stop and reflect on this and consider your options if something should happen to you.  Here are some
things you may want to think about and possibly act upon:

FIND SOMEONE TO HELP YOU - A friend, a neighbor, your child, your children, husband or another relative
Have a plan. Start by engaging someone to take care of your pets, now, ahead of time, before you may need help.   If it’s a friend or neighbor, and they also have pets, you can possibly set up a potential “exchange” of care, ie., “I can care for your animals and you can care for mine in case of an emergency.”
Your plan may also include the possibility of boarding your animals, or having someone take your animals temporarily into their homes.   Be creative with your options.   Whatever you do, create those options now.  Remember: STUFF HAPPENS.  

WRITE DOWN YOUR PETS’ ROUTINES - eating, exercise, medications, special needs, veterinarian’s phone number, etc
Make sure your helper knows your feeding routines and anything else necessary for your pets’ welfare.  It’s a great idea to WRITE DOWN what your daily feeding rituals entail for all animals, including meds for your pets.  Taking pictures of what the food/pills look like for a feeding may be helpful.  Keep a folder handy in the kitchen with this information.Doing a couple of run-throughs for feeding  and care with you present will help.  There is a world of difference between explaining to someone what needs to be done vs having them actually do it with you a couple of times.   I speak from experience! 

FOOD PREP - stock up
If you know you are going to be infirm for awhile, and you make special concoctions (like “chop”) for your animals, make sure your freezer, fridge, or pantry is stocked up with everything a caretaker would need, and make sure it’s easy to access.   

ADMIT WHEN YOU NEED HELP -  don’t be a hero
Your birds’ and your other animals’ lives all depend on you.  If you are incapacitated for any reason, their health, their well-being will suffer.   And that is why we read sometimes of horrible ‘rescues’ of neglected birds, dogs, cats, etc. Many times it is not because the owners didn’t love and care, but that, at some point, the owners were physically unable to give their animals the care they needed.  Be cognizant of when to ask for help...before things get out of hand. 

IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER recovery takes time, sometimes a long time, sometimes never
I am able to feed my dog, feed my birds by myself.  I’m pretty healthy right now.  But, since I’ve had back surgery, I am restricted as to how I can move...and getting down on the floor to change papers in cages and clean trays is a monumentally big deal.   I can do it, but I ask for help from my husband a lot with this to avoid  incorrectly moving my back.  It’s going to take months for my fusion to heal completely - I know that there are things I need assistance with.  If I’m careful now, and ask for help now, I will probably heal completely down the road...and the papers will get changed and trays will be cleaned.   

Accidents happen, surgery happens, illnesses happen..and, darn it, we just get old!  We can heal completely from some things, other things may impair us for life.  If that is the case, we ALL need to take a long, hard look at what we are capable of doing and what we may need to let go of, either by getting assistance or by looking at re-homing at some point in the future.  

I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer....just trying to be extremely pragmatic and honest.   I was and am very fortunate.  I had help with me.  I had help with my animals.   If I hadn’t had all of that help, my birds and my dogs would have paid the price.  I felt that extreme helplessness for those first weeks, and was so very grateful for what my husband and Art did to make sure that I thrived, and that my animals also thrived, without me...for awhile. 

If you waded through this whole diatribe, you get a medal and I thank you.  I hope that you take this blog to heart  and consider how stuff, when it happens (and it most likely will!), will impact you, your animals, your family, and how you will be ready to respond. 

Monday, December 4, 2017



I've had my Scarlet Macaw, Tanner, for ten years.    He has been a joy, a hoot, an incredible addition to our family and the flock.   He does a great pirate "Aaarrrrrgggh!" when I ring one of his bells, and bows his head for long head scratches. The list is long with what makes him so special.  But...with an "up" side there may be a "down" side, and with Tanner, this is the case.   

When I adopted Tanner, he may have been exposed to a strain of Clostridium (http://www.avianbiotech.com/diseases/clostridium.htm).  For years, I have dealt with some rather disgusting, stinky droppings from this big guy.  (I would share pictures here, but I'll spare you.)  Tanner gets regular checkups with Dr. Jerry LaBonde (Homestead Animal Hospital, Centennial CO) and this has been a front-burner issue the entire time I have had him.  We monitor his weight, his health, his behavior, and though his droppings are not normal, everything else about this bird is spot-on great.  

Early on, Tanner took antibiotics for his condition, and as I recall, they worked very well on a short-term basis, and once the prescription was finished, the Clostridium would return.   I stopped the drugs as it really didn't resolve the issue and began years of cleaning up his cage and the floor and the nearby wall ... because the droppings didn't stay in  his cage.   It was just the way it was and the way it was going to be.  Ok by me...I really love him.

A few weeks ago, Get Creative2 hosted Charise Mixa and Lisa Bolstad for a workshop in Parker, CO on sprouting for parrots.   One of the topics that came up was the holistic benefits of  apple cider vinegar and adding it to our birds' water bowls.    It dawned on me that I had actually tried the ACV with Tanner years ago to attempt to help his tummy issues.  I honestly can't say why I stopped using it, but I did.   However, I was inspired by the suggestion by Lisa to give ACV another try to see if it would help Tanner's stomach.

Home I went, stopping at the store for ACV on the way.   I started immediately - 1 tsp to his large bowl of water per day. * And...(drum roll,  please, along with a "Knock on wood..."): the next morning there were normal, big ol' macaw droppings straight down in the bottom of his cage.  Solid, well-shaped, all  3 parts present.   What a surprise! I thought it might be a fluke, but for these past two weeks, with the daily tsp of ACV in Tanner's water, his droppings continue to be  n-o-r-m-a-l.   

I don't know if he feels any better, because his demeanor, his overt behaviors have never indicated anything out of the ordinary with his health, but I feel better for him.  I will continue with this daily dosage, along with his regular wellness exams with Dr. LaBonde and hope that the apple cider vinegar continues to keep the health of his stomach in balance.

I started to do some more research online about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar so that I could personally write an entire blog about it, but I came upon an excellent, excellent piece written by Alicia McWatters, Ph.D., C.N.C.    I knew I couldn't do it better than she did, be more thorough.  So, I highly recommend that you follow this link: http://www.quakerparrots.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=58876 and read about the history of vinegar, why it is beneficial to our birds, to us, how it is made, how to use it, even misting sprouts with ACV!  It was a very worthwhile read for me...and I hope it will be for you, as well.

And last, I am not recommending that you rush out and buy some organic ACV and give it to your bird(s).   I am  recommending that, if your bird is experiencing some gastronomical issues, or you think he may benefit from a dose of ACV, please ask your avian vet first, let him/her give you a daily dosage amount, and then proceed.      Good luck!

* Update (12.5.17): I spoke with Dr. LaBonde today and he gave me a specific ratio of apple cider vinegar to water to give to our birds: 1 Tablespoon acv:1 Liter water or 1-1.5 teaspoon acv:1 Pint water.  Dr. LaBonde shared with me that a larger dose (as in the 1 tsp. per water dish) that I was giving to my macaw was too much, but only in that it would make the water less appealing for my bird and he might drink less than needed.  There was no harm in the amount...it was just that it affected the taste.  So I will mix up a pint of water and vinegar, put it in the fridge and use it specifically for Tanner, and not have to get out my measuring spoons every morning!   If you're going to try acv, this is the formula you need to use.   

Saturday, November 4, 2017


Mercedes Bijou Basin Surprise ("Sadie")
Many years ago, my husband and I came across a "dump dog" about 10 miles from our home as we were taking a Saturday afternoon drive. According to local ranchers, she had been sitting the entire day in the same spot by the side of the road, probably waiting for her owners to return. We tried to locate the owner of this pup for hours to no avail, and so we brought her home with us and tried to find an Australian Shepherd rescue. At the time, there were no Aussie rescues in Colorado and so....she was ours. Our love for Sadie has lasted almost 14 years.  Being an Aussie, her incredible intelligence was evident and her ability to learn new skills was amazing.   I immediately enrolled her in obedience classes and ended up taking her through advanced obedience and advanced agility.   One training method that worked amazingly well with Sadie was clicker training.   I could (and still can) teach her something new in just a few minutes.  And even though her sight and hearing are now failing, she still responds enthusiastically to the commands that she learned those many years ago. 

Clicker training.  It worked so well with my dogs.  But I could never coordinate my hands when I was trying to work with my feathered flock.  I decided I needed three hands: one to hold the target (the "bridge"), one to hold the reward, and one to hold the clicker!   I have to admit, as good as I was training my dogs with a clicker,  I gave myself an "F" for my efforts with my birds.   Until....

Two Saturdays ago I assisted with Barbara Heidenreich's Fear Free Animal Training workshop that she presented to the Minnesota Companion Bird Association.   At the presentation, she had available a handy little "tool" that she had invented (telescoping target stick with clicker)...and when I saw it, I knew I had to have one.  (And ohhhh, how I wish I had invented it!)  Here is Barbara showing how it works:

  There are so many reasons to train our birds using positive reinforcement.   Not to do "tricks," per say,  but to make them comfortable accomplishing actions that make their lives, our lives, and our long-term relationships enjoyable, with as little fear and stress as possible, ensuring our birds' comfort and safety.    Think of it: easily getting your bird to step up; staying in a stationary spot in the cage so you can change papers without their "help;" loading and unloading into a carrier for traveling; stepping onto a scale for a daily weigh-in; coming out of a crate at the vet's office.   The possibilities are endless.   Using clicker training is a great, positive method to utilize with parrots. 

I am inspired to spend more time with my birds working with my new FFAT clicker/target. I've just begun this clicker training journey anew with my flock, and I am not an expert trainer by any means, but I am determined to use this excellent tool, (THAT ONLY REQUIRES TWO HANDS!),  and try to guide my birds toward some great, positive behaviors.  Maybe I can get a video or two of my progress on a blog in the near future.

Yes, you can teach old dogs....and old birds new tricks!  Click!

Have you used clicker training with your birds? Have you had success? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.